A friend confessed to me the other day, that she did not have the time to do her smudge ceremony lately, or smudge as often as she wished, but she knew it would make her life better if she did; “There’s just too much going on,” she said, exuding stress and likely guilt about it.
It’s a sad truth; when we humans NEED self-care the most, we give it to ourselves the least. We consider care of bodies and our spirits second to what’s going on with our working, outward selves. Otherwise, we would invest time in Spirit work, just as we do by showing up regularly for the stressful parts of our lives. From personal experience, I know this to be true; despite what I knew, there was a time in my life when my projects and work dramas defined me. I became my problems, walking them to and fro from work to home and back, for weeks! We all get lost at times like this.
Luckily, it’s also true that when we invest in our bodies- with exercise, and in our spirits- with space and ritual, we create a container to hold and balance what’s going on. This may be hard to imagine, but it’s definitely real. When we practice spirit work- any practice that creates space (i.e. meditation, ritual, silence, stillness, prayer, rites, sacred dance, chanting, mantra, or ceremony) we create more space within ourselves, and begin to operate from this space in holding everything that happens to us. Your smudge ceremony, literally your smudge bowl is one place to achieve this experience.
So how do we keep a smudge practice in a way that is easy to do everyday? We all choose busyness, so this is critical when we anticipate more stresses coming on. In a nutshell, we keep our smudge practice going and growing- by keeping our rituals simple so that we do them more often. This may look differently to different people, depending on your lifestyle, but my list of four suggestions below has been easily adapted by my clients from many walks of life.
Oh-and one small caveat that I clarify with my terminology. I call small short ceremonies ‘ritual’, and longer smudge events- ‘ceremonies’. Ceremonies are more intensive rites important for deeper purification (like sweat lodge). What I speak of below regards small daily rituals that I call maintenance; everyday energetic maintenance. Our daily practice with smudging is a way of heading off chronic stress, and regularly “bathing away” everyday energies. But when major difficulties happen in our lives; when we are dealing with shadow, need protection, are going through trauma, or are processing things that take time to process- this all points to purification and connection, which is a more intense smudge ceremony. In my experience, that takes more time to conduct, making weekends better for investing time in our self-care.
I also present these four steps below because I think that the more daily maintenance and self-care rituals that we do for ourselves regularly, the less we crash n’ burn, and the less of an energetic overhaul we will need later on.
(Excerpted from Rituals/Sacred Land Sage/Tara Linda)
Four Steps to Developing your Sage Smudge Practice~ for Everyday Maintenance
- Set up a Dedicated Space: Keep a small space to smudge, near the front door if possible. A ‘smudge station’ if you will- with your most basic smudge supplies. I don’t consider this an altar. My altar spaces are more private, with things related to the offerings I’m giving that week. This area is more spiritually neutral. For example, on a shelf near the front door of my home, I’ve set up a very simple space to smudge. It has a bowl to hold incense or sage, a candle, a bell, and one rock. Roommates with different faiths are not put off by photos or pictures of saints or Gods unique to one faith or another (there are no photos). But every time we pass this space; everyone wants to light an incense stick or sage. It inspires us all to remember, “oh right, I should smudge before work.” Similarly, coming home, when walking inside, people will smudge by the door, symbolically leaving their stresses at the portal.
2. Keep your Ritual Simple. It should contain the same steps as a full smudge ceremony, just shorter. Your breath holds your prayer, your wish when you ask your Guides/Creator/Spirit to come close. Your words speak your heart’s intention. A sacred sage leaf or incense stick offering Sacred Smoke completes the picture. You can use your hand to wash the Sacred Smoke all over you, or simply breathe in the sage smoke. When your prayer is finished, you put the sage bundle or leaf out in sand or water. The last step is to express Gratitude to Spirit for listening and being present.
3. Keep your Smudge Tools Simple: You don’t need a lot; a single leaf or a smudge bundle, a match or candle. (I have been known to work at the gas stove). If you want to be unnoticed, and create less smoke- use a single sage leaf, or a small piece of cedar laid in a bowl. If you can’t create smoke, then use a smudge spray. If you don’t have this, let your ritual be an offering- a flower, a toy, something special that you place in this area, and then offer yourself and your best, with a short prayer of your intention, closing the ritual with a statement of gratitude. For everyday smudging, one sacred plant is enough.
4. Make it a Habit. This applies to all ritual that we do. This is the kind of practice where we have to do the work of showing up, taking stock in an honest way of what’s going on, and finding our words to express that honestly. It gets easier the more you do that. Regarding spiritual practice, all my teachers across traditions, from Native American, Christian, to Buddhist, say the same thing; You can’t make progress here and there. A glimpse is not “it”. When we keep a regular practice of one thing over time, we can begin to clear a path. We make progress. Our practice becomes a practice of taking care of ourselves. We begin to feel the changes. Eventually, regular practice brings regular results.
All text and photos © protected by Sacred Land Sage/Tara Linda), excerpted from our Rituals book and educational materials.